Stephen Chow Developing Film With Thai Studio GTH

Stephen Chow - P 2013
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The thriller project will be a Thailand-China co-production for the Chinese market, directed by GTH hitmaker Banjong Pisanthanakun.

Stephen Chow is working with Thai studio GTH to develop a thriller for the Chinese market, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

The film will be a China-Thailand co-production, directed by GTH’s Banjong Pisanthanakun, who recently smashed Thailand’s all-time domestic box office record with his horror-comedy Pee Mak Phra Khanong, which grossed $35 million.

"It’s a good time for us to pursue new challenges," said GTH’s senior director of international business Yongyoot Thongkongtoon. “This is the first step of what we hope will be a long-term collaboration.

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Still in the early stages of development, the Chow-backed film will be a Chinese-language thriller with a Chinese cast. The budget is expected to fall somewhere between $2.5 million to $6.5 million (15 million to 40 million yuan). No production date has yet been pegged.

Yongyoot says Chow approached GTH about the possibility of working together, saying he was a fan of Banjong's work (Shutter, 2004; Alone, 2007; hit rom-com Hello Stranger, 2010) and was interested in collaborating.

Penetrating the Chinese market has been a daunting proposition for Thailand and other regional Asian film industries, given that the Chinese government allows just 34 foreign films to be officially imported each year -- with most of the coveted quota slots going to Hollywood tentpoles.

The Thai government has previously lobbied China to restructure its film import system. In April, Thailand proposed that China subdivide its foreign film allocation quota into Asian and non-Asian movie imports, giving regional players, whose film budgets are often one-hundredth of Hollywood’s, a better chance of access.

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“A change like this would be great for a studio like us,” Yongyoot said. “The current quota system in China is a huge limitation for Thai film studios.”

Chinese film regulators have shown no sign of movement on the proposal, but should GTH's project with Chow be granted official co-production status, it would be deemed a domestic production and exempt from the import quota, as per Chinese regulations. And if the film ends up not qualifying as a co-prod, partnership with a China industry insider such as Chow would strongly boost the film’s chances of securing a quota slot.

The Hong Kong-born director has been responsible for some of the biggest box office hits in Chinese movie history, including Kung Fu Hustle ($101 million) and this year’s Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons, which became the second-highest grossing film ever in China at $206 million, behind only James Cameron’s Avatar ($221 million).